When newcomers enter the genre of battle royale, it can definitely feel like a great challenge. No matter how talented you are, the first dozens of sessions will seem like a pointless exercise in futility. You can spend hours foraging for armor and weapons, desperately trying to eliminate your peers in a mad scramble for glory; all while the circle of the playable terrain rapidly shrinks. And in most cases, you’d just get killed and have to start over again.
Naturally, skill is the most crucial component here, but only in tandem with good communication and patience. When you play in teams, there is additional anxiety to be found in the need to actually talk into a microphone, if only to push your teamwork to the next level even with complete strangers.
In this regard, Apex Legends, developed by Respawn Entertainment, is no less difficult — but it may be a bit more welcoming.
The extremely handy ping system that the game employs can allow members of a team to communicate with surprising ease and swiftness. At its essence, this is just a single button that anyone can use to let people know what they’re doing in a variety of ways. It actually makes voice chat with people online completely unneeded. If you want to suggest where the dropship should land, just ping that area by pointing to it. In case you wish to let your squadmates know about a handy weapon upgrade that you’ve seen nestled between two desert dunes, simply aim the crosshair towards it and place a ping.
And even more handily, this is a feature that can adapt to the context of your current gameplay. In other words, the ping will have different uses in and out of combat. For example, if you aren’t in the middle of a shootout, you can agree to the suggestion of another player just by clicking on the ping they’ve placed. When used in a larger team, this voiceless manner of communication becomes a beautiful non-verbal dance.
When this is compared with playing other games in the battle royale genre with strangers, you’ll undoubtedly find the alternative to be a hassle. Just imagine being paired up with a random internet stranger who just can’t stop yelling out pointless commands into their microphone.
And the feature of pinging is just one example of the savviness and wide accessibility that Apex Legends has as a multiplayer shooter. This game has definitely learned from its genre precursors, such as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds or DayZ. And while it doesn’t stray too far from the fold, it still manages to offer a flavor that separates it from the pack.
Indeed, one of the best draws that Apex Legends can offer is its well-designed emphasis on player cooperation. This is visible in its twisted presentation of permadeath as well. Reviving fallen teammates who are on the verge of death is a pretty common feature these days. But here, even dying doesn’t spell out doom for an entire round in Apex Legends.
Instead, the player’s avatar drops a flag upon death. And if someone else from their team picks it up and brings it to a few locations dotted across the map, the dead player gets a respawn. This is a useful feature for a variety of reasons. For one, people who aren’t that familiar with the game or the genre can have some much-needed breathing room while they learn the basics. But also, it gives players the incentive to work together more often. If you take the time to revive a fallen teammate, chances are that they’ll return in kind.
The classes in the game are also designed so that they are largely on equal footing. In essence, this is due to the way their abilities were designed. On the one hand, these are definitely unique enough to make the choice of a class important; but on the other, they are also there to complement one another, rather than counter and overwhelm. Because of this, switching between the different classes in the game is a lot more fluent.
For example, there’s Pathfinder — a robot that’s designed to discover new and interesting routes on the map and find shortcuts. The abilities it has are largely tied to the robot’s grappling hook; this allows players that choose it to reach the areas that others can’t go to more easily. At the same time, the militaristic Bangalore has her passive sprint ability, which turns on whenever she’s under fire. Plus, she can call an airstrike to quickly decimate the opposing squad.
Classes aside, the biggest part of the players’ lethality is more related to the wide range of weapons they can get on the battlefield. And there’s another great example of how meticulous Respawn was with their design. When used in concert with the ping system we’ve described above, the importance of weapons scattered throughout the map makes for a thrilling battle royale.
In the end, we’d be remiss not to mention the tiny but extremely diverse cast of characters you can play in Apex Legends. Out of the eight different eponymous Legends that the game contains, you can play two LGBT characters and two people of color. From all of these, the mysterious but deadly hunter Bloodhound is the most notable example of a character with a non-binary gender in a mainstream shooter. Though obviously, the inclusivity that Legends wants to promote comes across its own challenges because the genre isn’t driven by narrative but more by gameplay. Shoehorning any depth to the characters included therein can be tricky.
For example, the Apex Legends website contains a library of character biographies. And the page for the character of Gibraltar makes mention of a boyfriend. But if you’ve never taken the time to actually Google the characters from Apex Legends, learning this detail from the game itself is nigh impossible. It remains to be seen if Respawn will manage to expand upon the stories and the lore that Apex Legends currently has. This could perhaps be achieved through cinematics, as many online games do.
In conclusion, the “last man standing’’ concept that is at the heart of the battle royale genre at large can seem daunting to rookies. And even considering the smaller number of players that Apex allows per round compared to its peers, the beginning can still contain a steep learning curve. The tutorial level doesn’t do a good job in familiarizing new players with the core of the game. But the great communication system and the focus on teamwork actually make this a lot easier in the long run — for those who want to spend time on it.